Skip to main content

Vertex Week day 5: animation live blog

It's the last day of Vertex Week 2022, join us on Day 5's live blog as we follow along with our artists tutorials and talks.

Vertex Week 2022, all you need to know
(Image: © Future)

It's the final day of Vertex Week 2022 and we go out with a bang. Today is animation day and we have the amazing Aaron Blaise, Pixar's Dylan Sisson, and Jackie Droujko with two tutorials for designing characters for animation.

We began today's live blog by joining Pixar's Dylan Sisson for a look at how the animated short Luca was created, and what this has meant for the future of RenderMan – Pixar's free-to-try animation and rendering software. Rewatch his video talk below.


We start Vertex Day 5, our animation special, and we begin with a look behind the lens with Pixar's Dylan Sisson. Let's begin…

Ooh, the future of RenderMan. Can't wait to see what is coming from Pixar.

Is it wrong we want a Woody Statue too. Guess we need to put in 20 years at Pixar.

Those stylised oval water wakes are fantastic. Nice to see how they were adapted from the book's illustration.

RenderMan treats animations as if they are live action sets. The team can light and set up a scene as if it were a film set or photo studio. "It's a truly cinematic approach to lighting," says Dylan.

The Luca team put the director's vision ahead of realism. So things are fiddled with and adjusted to ensure the film looks artistic and not simply a recreation of real life.

Ah, Soul. One of the best animated movies in recent times. Who cried?

The history of RenderMan, has it been this long? Is there a favourite Pixar movie you'd like to see come back?

What's next? Increased image quality and control, says Dylan. Pixar wants to improve workflows for artists. 

Wow, RenderMan takes 6.44 mins to render a scene. That's 11 times faster than the current RenderMan.

That light rendering demo is impressive. We can imagine there'll be some great films coming out of Pixar with XPU.

Pixar and ILM teaming up here. 

Pixar Vary looks like an amazing time saver. 

This is cool, you can create and share your own libraries across Maya, Blender and Houdini. 

Pixar is looking into creating more stylisation in its technology and we guess its movies. This could be interesting. It's interesting to hear how much harder it is to create stylised looks rather than photoreal animation.

This living illustration demo is giving us an A-ha vibe.

You can apply traditional illustration techniques to these new stylised renders. Dylan shows us some training from a classic pen and ink art book.

Really interesting to watch the airship move from style to style within the same scene.

Red popping up in the corner there. Lovely movie.

The first of today's live blogs comes to an end. Coming up later we have two tutorials from the excellent Jackie Droujko who will show how to warm up your animation design skills and then a speedpaint.

We continue today's animation special with Netflix Animation Studio's Jackie Droujko. She'll be showing how to warm up your art skills. Let's start…

Jackie does a master study like this when she’s feeling unmotivated. She asks herself, “what are my goals?” Here she’s looking to understand shapes and improve her colour knowledge.

Pay attention to the shapes. This character is “very soft,” says Jackie. The image is full of smooth shapes. Jackie is drawing over the original master painting to gain a better understanding of the shapes and how to break those down into her own interpretation.

Jackie’s not aiming to replicate this painting but draw it in her style as if she were designing it for animation. She’s considering how the character could move.

The necklace is large so Jackie considers making it larger or smaller. Does she make a feature or it to create interest or reduce it? The shapes are competing. These are the kind of thought processes that go into designing new characters for animation. Jackie is constantly looking at how to break down a character and exaggerate or focus on elements. 

Let’s paint!

Remember the classic straights versus curves ideal, balance your character designs with straight and curved lines for dynamism. 

Jackie is keeping this warm up exercise loose and sketchy.

Jackie caught the colours nicely while updating them to her bolder, animation style. We love it!

If Jackie has given you the drawing bug then we can help too. Take a look at our guide to the the best tablets with a stylus for drawing and note taking and if you're on a budget take a look at our list of the best tablets for students.

We're joining Jackie Droujko for her second tutorial of the day. The Netflix Animation Studios artist will be speedpainting a character design…

Jackie says she started an illustration with reference. She heads to Pinterest for inspiration, “that’s what it’s there for!”

Know the use of your illustrations. Jackie explains this one is going to be used for her Patreon account, as an art print. She sets the size and keeps a black border for the frame.

With just a couple of pen marks Jackie has already managed to define the pose and tone of this illustration. “Fun angles and shapes,” she says.

Jackie uses the handy Liquify tool to fix some errors in her linart. “When a pose isn’t intense enough or has the right energy I use the Liquify tool to put the chest up higher and the waist further back,” says Jackie.

She brings in a van photo into the background to get a sense of perspective and proportion.

“It’s kind of all over the place!” Luckily Jackie’s partner is at hand to paint the background (he’s an environment artist).

Jackie usually uses fewer shadows and sticks with strong line art but because of this van background she has to add shadows to the character to connect her to the background.

The funky painted van texture is really cool, it brings the piece together. Notice Jackie is using a limited colour palette to bring the character and van together.

Photobashing – Jackie is dropping photos onto the van at low opacity to give the sense of a texture and form without needing to paint it all. 

That pillow trick was great – Jackie took a photo of an existing pillow and took its shape before painting over it. Neat.

Amazing work from Jackie, everything feels consistent. The shapes used to create the character and the angles Jackie has chosen really bring the image to life.

Oh, an art retreat in Morocco. Where do we sign up?

Thanks Jackie for another great tutorial. You can rewatch this video any time you like either on this live blog page or at the dedicated page, speedpainting a character design.

We're pleased to be following along to Aaron Blaise's exclusive workshop for Vertex Week, he'll be taking us through this design process. Let's begin…

Swish opening. The legend.

It’s going to be lions and bears today! Fab. 

We’re getting an insight into how The Lion King was made now. Aaron’s pen strokes are so defined and purposeful. 

Watching Aaron sketch in the muscle groups and bones is fascinating. 

The magic is all in understanding those core shapes and the proportions. The six elements to every four-legged animal can be adapted. This, of course, comes from years of study and practice.

Aaron is demonstrating the basics of any animal design, if you want to create an alien or monster design these will stand as the basis for any concept. Using this knowledge can give you concept creatures a greater believability.

We're plantigrade. We learned something similar in Wednesday's tutorial from Glen Southern for sculpting on the iPad.

The lesson, know how the real animal works and then you can begin breaking it down to a stylised cartoon version for animation. Now we can bring in characterisation and personality.

The real lion cub is done. Now Aaron can begin taking it to a new level. We're going to see how The Lion KIng's Nala was designed…

The lion has eyebrows – Aaron stole this from humans to give Nala more personality.

Big and chunky proportions of the kitten are adapted to create the Lion King's baby lion Nala. The flow remains the same to give it that readability and credibility.

Adult lion time. 

The strings are being pulled together now, using his understanding of human anatomy and animal he can combine the two. Now Aaron is creating anthropomorphised designs, and we're getting into Brother Bear territory…

Or it's a big cat on two feet. But we believe it. Where's Brother Bear?

Amazing, those tine line details suddenly bring out a character. He kinda looks goofy.

This is great, Aaron is taking his quick design and beginning to work up a new pose, adding clothes and really bringing life to the character with a quick doodle.

Just the bear necessities, Aaron?

The same six parts to the bear as the cat. The principle stacks up but the proportions change.

We all have our quirks and habits, Aaron likes to draw his animals slanted and then reposition.

The round shape Aaron starts with is a great way to break the sparseness of the page and begin getting some shapes and lines down.

Using the same simple shapes Aaron can draw this bear in any position. We can now understand how the Disney style emerged, as artists like Aaron would need to draw these characters over and over again.

That was amazing. He makes it look so easy. Aaron mentioned he's up for a Q&A there at the end, if you want to ask Aaron Blaise anything about his art head over to Twitter and send your questions to @AaronBlaiseArt.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1